Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Hic Sum

Girl with a White Dog by Lucien Freud (Tate)
All situations in human existence are by definition laden with significance. What’s peculiar, however, is the fact that many people don’t perceive the iconography of a seemingly innocent scene. What made Rembrandt Rembrandt was the fact that he created an almost instantaneous mythology. Like The Night Watch, Velasquez’s Las Meninas takes something, perhaps more intrinsically symbolic, in medias res, stopping it in order to the allow the viewer to intensify his or her perception. Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece performed a similar service with regard to the artist’s studio, albeit in literary form. Often people take pictures and then post them on Facebook or Instagram with the notion that content is king. They want to mark a birthday or wedding or anniversary, but in the process forget all the spatial relationships, the intrinsic body language of the shot or representation. Take a look at Lucien Freud’s Girl with a White Dog (1950-1), a portrait of the artist's first wife, Kitty Garman. The painting is erotic and almost lascivious, but the image is arresting not because of the voyeurism or sexuality, but the specific way in which it eroticizes its subject. Day after day humans record each other. In fact, recording has taken the place of living, so intense is the desire and need to save and catalogue happenstance. It’s a little like Gray Gardens. People horde reality like the sisters in the famous movie, filled their house with objects they couldn’t throw away. There are so many images that they lose meaning like the books in Borges's The Library of Babel. Ultimately, also, there's no time to regard them all. Most people end up discountenancing the very world they are trying to record and conserve.  

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